Review: Buck Rogers #9

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Buck Rogers has saved the Earth twice already, but when it comes to saving Wilma Deering, he’s got more than a few obstacles in his way.

buckrogers9COVER.jpgBuck Rogers #9
Writer: Scott Beatty
Artist: Carlos Rafael
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Simon Bowland
Covers: Carlos Rafael and Carlos Lopez (A), John Watson and Carlos Lopez (B)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

The Deering line is a long one, but for Buck Rogers, the only Deering he knows at the moment is being held in the air city of Han – forced to marry the leader, or watch the lands below fry.  Han has the ultimate weapon – something akin to a giant magnifying glass used to fry ants – and the rogue city state has cut off all talks with the land based organizations.  If you want to see a rough and tough woman, who knows how to handle a blaster, and punch a guy in the face, you’re going to see it in this issue as Wilma does everything she can to keep herself at arms length from the scoundrel who thinks he can do and have anything he wants. I like how Wilma is written in this series, and this issue in particular. She’s the damsel in distress without being the pretty, pretty princess who is in constant need of rescuing.  She’s a strong character who brings a lot of drama to the story, and even though we are given a brief glimpse into her lineage, readers don’t know everything about Wilma or the baggage she brings with her in this story.

The only bit of knowledge we know about Wilma is that she has a kid brother, Buddy, who, when discovering his sister is being held by Lord Harrier, flies off to try and save her.  Unlike Wilma, Buddy is the pretty pretty princess that is in constant need of rescuing, as his bold attempt to breach the floating city is met with guns trying to cut him down.

Say it with me, “Oh, Buddy. Will you never learn?”

Fortunately, Buck comes to his rescue, which is followed by a high speed air chase where Buck tries to avoid some very smart bombs.  The end result is the saving of hides, but it lands Buck right back in the custody of Doctor Huer.

Huer is another unique character in this series, as he comes off as both a bumbling idiot, and a crafty old man.  Usually, characters like Huer are played as one or the other, but seldom both at the same time, and by a single writer.  Huer pulls off a surprise move in this chapter, by taking Buck and Buddy to a bar in the Grand Canyon (in the future it will be called The Grand Landfill) to hook up with a smuggler by the name of Black Barney.

So let’s summarize what we have so far in this story; a captive potential princess, a weapon capable of destroying an entire city, a crafty old man, a comedy relief sidekick always getting into trouble, a blonde hero, who wants to jump first and ask questions later, and now the roguish smuggler with a spaceship that just might make the Kessel Run in twelve-parsecs.  If it sounds an awful lot like Star Wars, then you’re not alone.  Heck, there’s even a suspicious looking Cloud City type shape on the cover.  As before, with references to Planet of the Apes, I like what Beatty is doing here, but he needs to tread carefully before he incurs the wrath of Skywalker Ranch.

Still, even with the overt references, I like how quickly this issue played out.  Readers get continued resolution from the previous issue, there’s a great chase scene, new drama, and new characters that are set up quite well. I don’t know how far in advance Beatty and Dynamite Entertainment have planned this series, but each issue builds upon the last in a way that makes each new story arc tie to one another, but with the feel of a brand new jumping on point each time.

Rafael and Lopez continue to develop their artistic skills, too.  My previous complaints about the men looking distorted on the page have almost cleared up completely, and if you are someone that likes to drool over half-nekkid women, there’s some fan service there, too – although I find myself liking Wilma in her royal feathered costume, than being scrubbed down in a bath by four women.  Once Rafael nails his figure drawing, I’m hopeful he’ll start laying out pages and panels with a more cinematic flair, as this is definitely where the story is going.

When the series first launched, I was a little hesitant in embracing the story fully.  Early reviews were not that great, and for the last couple of months have hovered around the 3 Star rating.  For some reason, this issue seems fresh and exciting (even with the odd 30 year old Star Wars references scattered throughout), and I like what I’m reading. It finally feels like this series is hitting its stride, no longer languishing in the early stages of property development.  It’s nice that the focus of this issue isn’t just on Buck Rogers, but instead, gives readers a look at the lead female character and her troubles. Already I like the Black Barney character, and if this two-arc story wraps up with a sky city blowing up (or at least getting crippled enough to have it go away for a while), then I’ll be one happy camper.  Buck Rogers #9 is a better jumping on point than any before, and earns a well deserved 4 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆